King Arthurâ€™s Knights of the Round Table were men awarded the highest order of chivalry (or in this case, style). The table at which these men sat was created to have no head or foot, representing equality amongst all of its members. Fast-forward a couple hundred centuries and times have changed, kingdoms have been conquered (two times over), yet for Imaginary Kingdom (IM-KING), a clothing line based out of Orange County, California, the script (or scroll) still reads the same. IM-KING prides itself on their collective energy, and with ten originators thereâ€™s plenty of that to go around. Format had the opportunity to speak with Andy Cool, IM-KING co-founder and creative director, who says theyâ€™re in it for the long haul. â€œWe want to actually last,â€ Cool explains of their kingdom. Check the name, because the knights of this table wonâ€™t be going anywhere anytime soon.
“Hunger forces us to thrive on pure passion and imagination. Basically, thatâ€™s what weâ€™re about â€“ doing our own thing.”
Format: How did you get started in the clothing business?
Cool: A couple of us have been in the industry. Iâ€™ve worked for a few clothing companies in the past. We decided that this is what we enjoy doing and what better time to start than now? Itâ€™s been a long process but we finally released our first season in mid-may
Format: What inspires your clothing, but more specifically the themes that run throughout your line?
Cool: Our line is basically â€˜we do what we want.â€™ We do everything on our own terms. We like to make fun of pop culture, we like to get political, we have meaningful messages. Everything is just basically being ourselves. Everyone in the company, weâ€™re all different in our own ways, you know. Everyoneâ€™s personality is a little different from each others. We all have our own opinions, we all have different bios. Our inspiration comes from our hunger. Staying hungry keeps us level headed and fresh. It allows us to be creative, but not cocky. Hunger forces us to thrive on pure passion and imagination. Basically, thatâ€™s what weâ€™re about â€“ doing our own thing.
Format: From the â€œHeart of the cityâ€ tee-shirt, â€œHate haters,â€ to your recently released â€œStay in Rehabâ€ tee-shirt, what goes into the creative thought process of those pieces or any piece of clothing IM-KING produces? Is it a collective process?
Cool: Yeah. Everything is brainstormed and talked about all the time. It is like how artists and producers collaborate on music. One will produce the beat, while the other spits the poetry. One cannot exist without the other. Our first season was a little crazy trying to figure out things, how we wanted to see our company as. In the upcoming season youâ€™ll see full themes. Youâ€™re going to see a lot of hip-hop influences on it.
Format: How does being based in California influence IM-KINGâ€™s style?
Cool: California culture is crazy, itâ€™s a mix of fashion. New York has its own thing, and the L.A. and Orange County scene is another thing. Everyone has their own style. Being in Orange County, everybody is different down here. There are so many different cultures. You go down to the beach youâ€™ll see the Abercrombie looking guys, you go down to South Orange County youâ€™ll see a lot of skaters. And then we have the pioneers, like Stussy and LRG here that have influence on the streets, so itâ€™s like a big mixture of everything. Our style is influenced on our lifestyle.
Format: You say, â€œIM-KING is for the everyday person who strives to the highest fulfillment of their individuality- the person who seizes the day to exceed the reality before them.â€ Elaborate on that.
Cool: IM -KING is for the rare person who prides themselves on being an individual. Those who can choose for themselves and not let your everyday blogger tell them what uniform to put on everyday. Self expression is a freedom thatâ€™s being neglected and exploited and needs to be embraced.
Format: What messages, or message, specifically, are you trying to express through IM-KING?
Cool: Like I mentioned earlier, weâ€™re just trying to do our own thing. We like to poke fun at ourselves, poke fun at other people, we just like having fun basically. Through our line youâ€™ll see stuff thatâ€™s really meaningful, stuff thatâ€™s really funny, stuff that might offend people, but itâ€™s just us being ourselves.
Format: You said there were 10 of you guys, are you all really close?
Cool: Weâ€™re all close. Everyone in this company is a close-knit friend. Me and the co-founder have been friends since we were 12 or 13 years old. A couple of the other guys we met through high school and college, everyone is basically part of the family.
“None of us have any formal training in the fashion business so thatâ€™s what makes it so fun. Thereâ€™s no specific set of rules that we all follow.”
Format: In IM-KINGâ€™s mission statement it says, â€œKingdoms live on in the minds and souls, kingdoms that tie together those bonded of heart and unmatched passion.â€ What specifically brings you all together, besides the obvious, your clothing line?
Cool: Besides the clothing line, the bond between us is really good. We hang out, we party together, we get drunk, we go out together, we stay at the office at night playing video games, itâ€™s just good fun for the whole company. Thereâ€™s nothing negative, itâ€™s just family doing itâ€™s thing together. None of us have any formal training in the fashion business so thatâ€™s what makes it so fun. Thereâ€™s no specific set of rules that we all follow. All weâ€™ve got is our common interests and passion. We create things we would wear and things weâ€™d like people to wear.
Format: You also wrote, â€œWe connect with those free spirits who seek an uplifting, communal approach to life, where the only limit is the confines of our own lucid imagination.â€ What specific approach do you take to constantly trying to better IM-KING, as well as your day to day approach to life and the struggles that come with it?
Cool: Weâ€™re all really young here. By keeping a close knit group weâ€™ve learned to live life as it comes and appreciate everything we have. Doing that allows us to feed off of each otherâ€™s creativeness. Like our own little basket case community. We have this entrepreneur state of mind right now. Everything we do we have to step it up to reach our full potential. Thatâ€™s how we do it with our clothes, every season we step it up. When we come up with something weâ€™ll push ourselves to make every design better than the last. We try to put out quality pieces. When youâ€™re young itâ€™s hard, you know, but when we all put our minds to it, weâ€™re stepping up our game every season.
Format: What sets IM-KING apart from the competition, that is if you feel like you have any?
Cool: If you look at our price points itâ€™s a lot lower than what you see from the other big brands in the streetwear industry. We try to keep it as low as possible. Weâ€™re not trying to milk this, weâ€™re trying to build a clothing company. Not necessarily a big street brand, but a clothing company. We want to actually last.
Format: You said youâ€™re not trying to build a streetwear company?
Cool: Weâ€™re trying to build a clothing brand. We donâ€™t want to be labeled as streetwear, we want to be known as a clothing brand.
Format: So do you feel like a lot of up-in-coming clothing lines now are just trying to be streetwear?
Cool: I think most independent brands are labeled as streetwear right away. Independent brands are usually just placed as street. And I think that most people are trying to become a full clothing line, there trying to build themselves into a full clothing line.
Format: Besides the price points that you mentioned, how does IM-KING go about labeling itself as a brand and not just streetwear?
Cool: If you see our pieces, we do denim, we try different washes, we have flannel, we have sweaters. Our pieces have more of an adult look to it.
Format: Lastly, describe IM-KING in one word?